I think the very concept of censorship on television is a contradiction in itself.
One must understand that where there is a remote in the hands of the viewer, there is a choice to be made. The censor is the person holding the remote and who decides whether he/she or even his or her family should see a programme or not. The market that backs or sponsors programmes - soaps, music videos or movies and which targets its viewers with a particular kind of programming is also the censor.
Demand creates supply on television, not vice versa. Television is not a medium which can afford huge risks. Therefore, investment is calculated.
The number of channels in India determine the diverse viewership patterns we have and then they are coincided with the existing market shares. Someone is willing to pay for a programme only if someone is willing to see it. Therefore, the current nature of soaps, movies and music videos that are being shown on television is only because there is a huge demand for such. And above all, one must understand that the people making programmes are also emerging out of various segments of society which in turn comprise viewership.
Censorship in India, according to me is an eyewash. It is a method of a system to prove to its people that it has an eye on what’s going on. Nothing other than that! Else, why would a system ban advertising of tobacco or alcohol on television and not ban it from being manufactured or sold in the market? Why would a system shut its eye to surrogate advertising of the much banned products through other media like events, sports etc?
Expression can never be controlled. It cannot be limited within parameters. It will find some outlet or the other. Expression banned is expression unleashed. People find loopholes in law, seek outlets or else go about their business illegally and the very system perpetrating warped values and morality is left with no alternative but to turn a blind eye to it.
It’s high time we realise that the more we try to cloak the definition of morality, the more naked it gets.
The need now is to redefine morality as the masses see it or else everyone will do as they please and the failing system and its laws will become completely redundant. Technology is growing too fast for the system to catch up with it and if reality is not confronted very soon, the system which has lost its hold on censorship to people in the form of a remote control will soon be stared in the face by children from small towns and villages who will capture the real on their personal cameras and broadcast on local channels completely in control of neighborhoods.
The champions of good values must act. They must realise that morality stands for good performance at work and disciplined human behaviour. Not about what people wear, eat, and drink or what they don’t wear, don’t eat and don’t drink. And above all not what caste, creed or religion they belong to.
Therefore, everything is permissible in television which has a viewership, in effect finds subscription/sponsorship. Censorship cannot become the carpet that an attitude of one segment of society against the demand of another can be swept beneath.
Guidelines cannot be the same for each and every channel. Therefore a system has to be put in place whereby viewership segments are segregated, masses are sensitised to what children can see and cannot see and broadcasters disciplined about the timings of adult programmes.
Mr Kher’s appointment as the censor board chief is welcome. He is a mature person who has spent a substantial part of his career participating in the creation of software for television and films. If he says that it is embarrassing to watch a recent music video on television with family members and that it has adverse effects on children, he is right. I am sure that he does not in effect intend to ban such music videos. I am convinced his solution to the problem will be to ensure that systems are put in place whereby all viewership segments are satisfied and broadcasters are alerted to plan their programming sensibly.
By VINTA NANDA
Posted on 4 November 2003